The trio of players nestled in street clothes at the end of Polk County Middle’s bench Thursday offered testament to the type of week the Wolverines endured.
The handful of players who replaced that missing threesome delivered a performance that assured the Wolverines would head into the weekend on a winning note.
Make that a championship note.
Polk County Middle led buzzer-to-buzzer, subduing a stubborn Flat Rock squad, 37-15, in a Blue Ridge Conference East Division matchup at Polk.
That victory, coupled with Apple Valley’s defeat of Brevard Middle, clinched the BRC East Division championship for the Wolverines. It is the sixth division title in program history and the first since 2018.
And it truly took a team effort to secure it, with contributions from players such as Reeve Carroll, Beija Olivari, Jessie Bradley and Akyla Cunningham.
“We talked about facing adversity, and the things we could control were our attitude and effort,” said Polk Middle head coach Michelle Fagan. “That was all there.
“For the team to get the win today, after having three girls injured in two days, shows how well they worked together.”
Polk (8-2, 8-0) played without usual starters Leah Dotson and Charley Dusenbury and key reserve Cate Brown. But sixth grader Carroll made the most of her first start, scoring a game-high 14 points to lead the Wolverines and teaming with Bailey Staton to provide perimeter pressure that bothered the Eagles throughout the day.
There were two moments in the first half when Flat Rock (0-7) hit 3-pointers that appeared to give the Eagles some momentum. Carroll answered both with 3-pointers of her own to quickly squelch any thoughts of a rally.
“Reeve Carroll stepped up big for us, offensively and defensively,” Fagan said.
The Wolverines relied on their defense and rebounding to hold Flat Rock to a single point until the final minute of the second quarter. The Eagles finally scored from the field on their first 3-pointer, but Carroll’s trey gave Polk a 12-4 lead at the half.
The Eagles trailed 18-10 midway through the third period when Polk’s offense began to click, the Wolverines scoring six points in the final 1:32 of the period on baskets by Jayden Duncan, Staton and Carroll. Polk then opened the fourth period with nine straight points, including a Staton 3-pointer, to build a 33-10 lead with 4:28 remaining.
Staton finished with 11 points, with Duncan adding five and Bradley scoring four. Kaylynne Holbert had two points and Olivari added one for the Wolverines.
Polk Middle is slated to travel Tuesday to Brevard Middle, weather permitting, to begin the final week of the regular season.